Being injured on the job can happen to anyone in any type of position. However, first responders and public safety officers often put their lives at risk and have a higher chance of sustaining severe and life-altering injuries. Because of this, California law gives these types of workers additional benefits, including Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB), should they ever sustain work-related injuries and need to take time off from work.
California Labor Code 4850
For many employees, getting compensated for a work-related injury entails filing a workers’ compensation claim, but certain employees are entitled to additional benefits. Specifically, California Labor Code 4850 provides first responders and public safety officers benefits up to 1 year, or 52 weeks, of their full salary if they are injured on the job and placed on temporary disability.
Who Is Eligible?
California Labor Code 4850 covers benefits for first responders and public safety officers, including:
- City police officers
- Police officers employed for the Los Angeles Unified School District
- Employees who work in a sheriff’s office and whose primary duties are clearly those of active law enforcement officers
- Certain workers in district attorneys’ offices, including inspectors, investigators, detectives, any personnel with comparable titles
- County probation officers, group counselors, or juvenile services officers
- Employees who work in a probation office and whose primary duties are clearly those of active law enforcement officers
- Regular, full-time peace officers under Section 830.31 of the California Penal Code,
- Airport law enforcement officers
- City, county, or district firefighters
- Full-time, year-round lifeguards employed by a first-class county in California, or by the City of San Diego
The statute does, however, explicitly state that it does not cover police officers or firefighters who work for the City or the County of San Francisco.
What are the benefits under California Labor Code Section 4850?
California Labor Code 4850 provides eligible public employees a paid leave of absence for up to 1 year after sustaining a temporary total disability (TTD) from an injury that arose from the course of his or her duties. During that year, the employee receives a salary continuation at their full rate of pay.
These benefits cover industrial injuries, workplace accidents, and illnesses that happen on the job.
This is substantially better than the normal workers’ compensation, or “workers’ comp,” coverage for workers who are ineligible for Labor Code 4850. These ineligible workers only receive the standard state rate of two-thirds of their average weekly wage in temporary disability benefits.
Additionally, if the injured worker recovers from his or her disability, returns to work, and gets hurt again, it can trigger a new 1-year window of benefits under Labor Code 4850.
Similar to normal workers’ compensation pay, the year of salary paid under Labor Code 4850 can be paid over the course of 5 years after the disabling injury.
The salary provided under this statute is non-taxable and includes any deductions typically taken from the salary, as well as benefits normally provided such as:
- Health insurance
- Life insurance
In relation to the benefits for Public Safety Officers and First Responders, Public Law No: 117-61, also known as Protecting America’s First Responders Act of 2021, will increase the benefit paid to families of public safety officers who die in the line of duty when claims take longer than one year to settle.
The bill also would expand eligibility for death benefits from the Public Safety Officers Benefit (PSOB) program to include, among others, fire police and officer candidates. Death benefits under the PSOB program are classified in the budget as direct spending; CBO estimates that enacting the bill would increase direct spending by $26 million over the 2021-2031 period.
Public Safety Officer’s death benefits could be claimed by the families of public safety officers who have sustained a fatal line of duty injury and are eligible to receive a one-time death benefit, based upon a hierarchy of payment. However, it strictly follows the claim beneficiary payment hierarchy that contains all the eligible conditions and its corresponding benefit disbursement.
Aside from Death benefits and Disability benefits, PSOB also covers Education Benefits for higher education to eligible spouses and children of public safety officers who died in the line of duty or are catastrophically disabled in the line of duty. The PSOEA Program stipulates that PSOEA benefits are to be provided directly to students who attend a degree or certification program at an institution of higher learning and are the spouses or children of federal, police, fire, and emergency public safety officers whose deaths or permanent and total disabilities are covered by the PSOB Program (34 U.S.C. 10281 et seq.).
If a worker who is covered by Labor Code 4850 is still on temporary disability after a year has passed since the injury, the statutory benefits end. The disabled worker will have to make a workers’ compensation claim. The payment of benefits will be limited to the normal state rate for workers’ compensation.
Protecting the Worker Rights of Public Safety Officers
At Shegerian & Associates, we are committed to protecting the rights of these employees who work tirelessly for their communities and the people in them. For more information about your legal rights as a worker in California, contact Shegerian & Associates for a free case evaluation.